Is it ok for a lady to approach a man?
March 19, 2017 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I know the standard advice for dudes for "Hey, I see a pretty girl on the bus/reading in a coffee shop/walking down the street, how do I talk to her" is DON'T; does that hold true if the genders are reversed? My inclination is "Hey, that man looks interesting, I should introduce myself" but I don't want to be creepy. And related - is there good way to signal that hey, actually, I WOULD like to be approached if you think I'm attractive?

Details that might change the answers: I'm a straight lady in Seattle, early 30s, back in the dating world after many years not. And the kind of guy I'm interested in approaching is probably wearing an xkcd tshirt.
posted by hishtafel to Human Relations (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Find a way to make eye contact for just a bit longer than normal. And smile. Then it is up to him to get the hint.
posted by jtexman1 at 12:15 PM on March 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Depends on how you do it. Hi is fine. Drunkenly cornering and groping, I hate.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:25 PM on March 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah guys are so used to being ignored that if you show him just a little bit of attention he will be way more likely to take it from there. Guys don't wanna be called creeps or publicly rejected. So he'll need some assurance through flirty eye contact.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 12:29 PM on March 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think you're fine to do it. I also suspect that the type of guy you're looking for would need more that a smile and a meeting of the eyes, and would also assume that you're just being friendly unless you say so explicitly. So yes, find your way to make your approach, engage in conversation, put feelers out for whether he'd like to go out, and then ask explicitly.

I would say that contrary to what others are saying you will need to state your intentions clearly. As a man, it's actually quite hard to tell the difference between actually-likes-me friendly and has-to-treat-all-men-this-way-to-avoid-sexist-abuse friendly.
posted by ambrosen at 12:41 PM on March 19, 2017 [48 favorites]

I am a bisexual (leaning heavily toward being interested in women) white guy, late 20s, east coast, who owns an xkcd shirt. Personally, I have made the decision to simply not approach women in most situations like those you describe no matter what signals I think I may be getting, because the impression I've gotten is that it's nearly always going to be taken poorly, and I don't want to accidentally make anyone uncomfortable.

But, on the other hand, I know plenty of guys who are happy to take cues like eye contact as an invitation. Personally, I would most likely not take it that way, but would absolutely love it if someone was ever blunt enough to walk up to me and say, "Hey, I thought you looked like a kind/friendly/whatever person so I decided to come introduce myself. I'm Hishtafel. How long have you been following xkcd?"

Just one introvert's perspective.
posted by Urban Winter at 12:41 PM on March 19, 2017 [12 favorites]

I think it's fine as long as you are polite and respectful (which I am sure you will be). Women are constantly approached and often harassed by men, which is why in general the advice for men is not to approach at all outside of dating context because it can make women feel unsafe and triggered. However this isn't so much an issue in the opposite direction (again, assuming you are just saying hi/striking up conversation). So, I say go ahead. (I'm not a man though)
posted by bearette at 1:03 PM on March 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I know the standard advice for dudes for "Hey, I see a pretty girl on the bus/reading in a coffee shop/walking down the street, how do I talk to her" is DON'T; does that hold true if the genders are reversed?

Men generally don't have the problem of not being able to ever go about their daily business without being harassed, so I'd say go for it if you want.

is there good way to signal that hey, actually, I WOULD like to be approached if you think I'm attractive?

The best way is to go to a place where people traditionally meet new people, like a bar or a party.
posted by grouse at 1:31 PM on March 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

I would encourage you to just make friendly conversation and see if it leads anywhere. I'll nth that the taboo about men doing the same to women is because so many women get harassed by strangers. Most guys, especially geeky guys that might not be good at reading social cues, enjoy when women break the ice.
posted by Candleman at 1:39 PM on March 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

This is anecdotal, and I am very much not a guy, but most of the guys I know are so ill-prepared when a woman hits on them that they literally do not notice it is happening. Like you would have to spell it out for them. Literally spell it out. Most guys are just not socialized for this. (Hell, I am socialized for it, and I've sometimes missed it when a woman hits on me!)

Nthing the observation that approaching a woman who's gonna be harassed like five times that day is different from approaching a man who is not. Just be a polite, respectful, friendly human being, and actually say the words, "want to get a drink / coffee sometime?"* Or ask for their number or whatever it is the kids do these days.

*i knew a guy who didn't get this, actually. You might have to say "date."
posted by schadenfrau at 2:15 PM on March 19, 2017 [16 favorites]

Guy here, roughly same age as you, I know the demographic you're aiming for (I partially identify with it but my sartorial beliefs do not allow me to wear the t-shirt).

It is 1000 percent ok for you to approach me.

I think the worst case here is he doesn't notice that you're hitting on him. The more a situation has the expectation for romantic socialization, the less likely he'll misunderstand (bus < lunch counter < bar). You're not going to make anyone feel unsafe or disrespected.

Get it girl
posted by danny the boy at 6:20 PM on March 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

"Like you would have to spell it out for them. Literally spell it out."

I'm so dense that even if you held up a sign saying "I WANT TO GO OUT WITH YOU", I'd still probably rationalize it away and not get any sense you were interested. All I wanted when I was dating was for a woman to approach me. The number of dudes who would not appreciate a woman initiating contact is probably in the single digits worldwide.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:40 PM on March 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

most of the guys I know are so ill-prepared when a woman hits on them that they literally do not notice it is happening.

*raises hand*
Man here. I have totally done this, and only found out long after the fact. I'd recommend going ahead and saying hello, making polite conversation and being forward, (mentioning wanting to go out), if you like where lighter conversation goes.
posted by mordax at 7:55 PM on March 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Another guy report:

At the pet supply store recently, a woman roughly my age asked me several questions about various products and shower me pics on her phone of her adorable pepper.

When I related that story to several female coworkers with the "punchline" that I wasn't even dressed like the staff, they sat in silence for a looooong second them burst out laughing and I was enthusiastically informed of my thick skull.

If she'd given me her first name and, I don't know, an email or kik handle or something, I might have made the connection. Maybe.
posted by Caxton1476 at 8:20 PM on March 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm no longer single but back when I was - I learned that you need to be really blunt about this. If you are at a coffee shop catch their eye when you walk by and say "hi, how are you?" If he responds positively (smiling, "good thanks" or something similar) then make small talk briefly. basically take cues from anything- "oh is that the house blend i hear dark roast has less caffeine than blonde blah blah" "i love that painting you are sitting in front of, do you know anything about the artist?" "Your hat is so cute did someone knit it for you?" Introduce yourself. If you get a good vibe say, "do you want to hang out sometime?" and get their number.

Its really all about not giving a fuck. Know that it is totally within their rights to blow you off and roll with it. I've gotten "rejected" so many times but I can't remember a single one of them because I met so many cool people this way.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:44 PM on March 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

Of course it's OK, whether it will work out or not is another story. I think it certainly depends on the man, if he finds you attractive or appealing, and if he's gay or straight, or involved or not. Your delivery and timing will have a lot to do with it as well. I don't think it's fair to assume they're all the same, but in my experience men who have pursued me first have been the ones to be crazy about me/in love with me. The men I've showed interest in first have never stayed interested if they even received my interest well in the first place. I know that 'The Rules' authors would say that it's because a woman seems desperate when she initiates and men get turned off- that a woman should not so much as make eye contact with a man or acknowledge his existence unless he makes the first move, because he has to feel like 'the man' and that it was all his idea and that he is on a mission to prove himself worthy and blah blah blah. It sounds like hogwash to me, but something tells me there is an element of truth to their philosophy because it's matched my own experiences. Maybe there is something biologically relevant to what those women have written about. Maybe even if a man is a feminist and inherently loves and respects women, there is something hard-wired into him that appeals to his masculinity, something that necessitates a chase- something that he has to initiate, or it will fizzle out.

Idealism is one thing- a man may consider himself to be a feminist and respectful of women and their independence and he may respect the idea of a woman going after what she wants, but reality and biology are a world away from idealism. His gut reaction and emotional response to being pursued might not match up with his idealism. Something to consider. All I know is that I've only enjoyed being adored, and those were the attentions that I did not initiate. I haven't enjoyed the wishy washy situations that I initiated.
posted by Avosunspin at 9:12 PM on March 19, 2017

It sounds like hogwash to me

Guy here. It is.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:35 PM on March 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

If this is a specific guy who conforms to the nerdy-oblivious stereotype, then you should probably develop some sort of relationship in which he can gradually come to the realisation that you're interested. If it's nerdy-oblivious guys in general, then I think you're going to have trouble.

Also, even though guys like this don't typically hit on women, that doesn't mean they're necessarily respectful and well-socialised within a relationship. It's something to be aware of.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:36 PM on March 19, 2017

The men I've showed interest in first have never stayed interested

Reverse the genders, and I've had the same experience. Which means that all three of my (count them!) three longer-term relationships have been initiated when a woman hit on me. I am a reasonable fit for the OP's stated demographic.
posted by rd45 at 2:55 AM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

As some of the other guys have said, I've missed out on opportunities because I just can't read subtle signals. Not even when given over the course of -- oh, just for example -- three years. A quarter of a century later, it finally clicked. FML.

So yes, do approach us. (Memo to self: purchase xkcd T-shirt.) Smile. Let us know you're friendly and that it would be doubleplusgood for us to be friendly in return.

Fitting well into this conversation are tips Neil Gaiman gives for seducing a writer. I suspect they'll work for the broader spectrum you're interested in. Yes, he's being funny, but some of us males really do require the sledgehammer approach because we can't feel a light touch. Again, FML.
posted by bryon at 3:40 AM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yes, most men of my acquaintance would be extremely happy with someone initiating interesting conversation with them. While absolutely missing any hints, signs, clues, flashing neon lights, and other subtle things that some people would consider blatant invitations.

I think this comes from fear. Approaching people is hard. Getting shot down sucks. A lot of my nerdy brethren got bullied in high school for asking people out. So they may not have the experience.
posted by Jacen at 7:52 AM on March 20, 2017

#1 benefit of approaching men: the men you meet won't be limited to those who are comfortable approaching women

#1 benefit of explicitly asking a man to go out *on a date* if you like him after talking to him for a while (regardless of who approached): avoiding the limbo of ambiguity--if he says yes, you don't have to wonder if it's going to be a date (vs "hanging out"), if he's interested in you romantically, etc. Fine to wait to do this after an initial "hang out" if that's more comfortable; men in that demographic aren't very likely to "friendzone" you.
posted by mabelstreet at 10:05 AM on March 20, 2017

You could always buy + wear this...
posted by anotherthink at 1:43 PM on March 20, 2017

It's more than "non-creepy", it's practically mandatory. Nowadays guys (well at least intelligent decent guys) are bombarded with messages that they must not under any circumstances approach any woman for fear of being berated by "stop harrassing me you rapist" (or at least that's how the message has been sent). Thus the only serious chance you have with any of these guys is to approach them directly. Very directly. Even if you're on a dating site or similar high-expectation situation.

Seconding also the comments above about being incredibly obvious. Even the remotest chance of a misinterpretation of your words will be taken as a clear indication that he should not proceed further.
posted by tillsbury at 2:37 PM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Several years after graduating high school I found out that quite a few of my female friends had crushes on me and wanted to date me. But I was so naive and oblivious that I had no idea any of them were interested.

I always assumed it was a shy thing, but maybe it is a shy guy thing.
posted by tacodave at 4:04 PM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

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